On Monday June 25th, in the Crown Corporations Committee at the Legislature, I asked Kelvin Shepherd the President and CEO of Manitoba Hydro about Workplace Safety on Manitoba Hydro Projects and the relative roles of Manitoba Hydro and its contractors. My questions and Mr. Shepherd's responses are below [from Hansard].
Mr. Gerrard: One of the things which you talked quite a bit about was the safety record and the emphasis on safety. Now, Manitoba Hydro has a certain number of employees, but I think many of the employees who are involved in the project were actually employed by contractors or subcontractors. Is that correct?
Mr. Shepherd: That is correct. We have, as of today, about roughly 5,300 employees, but when you look at major projects–so I would use, you know, say, Keeyask, which I'm more familiar with. We have a camp at Keeyask; roughly peak staffing at the plant is 2,300 people. There would be a few hundred at most that are directly employed by Hydro and the majority are employed by contractors.
Mr. Gerrard: So just in the example for–of Todd Maytwayashing, who died January 17th of this year, he worked for a contractor or subcontractor, but the accident I believe occurred in the Manitoba Hydro's limestone yard. And what would be the relative responsibility in terms of safety and safety management by Manitoba Hydro versus the contractor or subcontractors?
Mr. Shepherd: Yes, thank you, Dr. Gerrard. I'll try to, you know, answer that question, you know, as, I guess, comprehensively as I can and I'm going to contrast that with, say, Keeyask.
So Keeyask is a site where Manitoba Hydro is the prime contractor and under our provincial legislation, regardless of whether a subcontractor is working on the site or not, Manitoba Hydro is responsible, ultimately, for the safety compliance and the safety systems of the entire site.
That is in contrast to most transmission projects, and so when you think about a transmission line construction here, it's not at a site and in that situation we–most often the contractor who is doing that work is considered the prime contractor and they are responsible for their own safety management and safety of their employees.
Now, that does not mean that Hydro doesn’t take a substantial number of sites–or steps to ensure safety. It simply means that at the end of the day, they are considered the prime contractor, and if there is an incident or an accident related to the job, they are responsible and have to engage with workplace health and safety.
But to give you a sense, we go through a very extensive process with all contractors, but on that case, a contractor like Forbes Bros., when we award the contract, we set up a–so first of all, we require, in the contract, that they meet all of the applicable safety requirements provincially, at a minimum, and that they meet all the requirements that Manitoba Hydro has.
So there's a contractual requirement they do that. They are the prime contractor, but we require that they meet all those requirements. But, upon awarding the contract, we meet with the contractor and we discuss safety requirements, environmental compliance; obviously, things related to the project, the schedule, technical issues. We discuss indigenous involvement, because we often will have an indigenous component.
Prior to construction starting, we hold pre‑construction meetings, and those are typically done at the appropriate site location. And, you know, we, again, look at the local conditions. So we look at–perhaps there's local details or aspects of the work that the–we have to deal with.
We talk about, you know, their supply of material, where they’re going to get the material from. In this case it was from a depot at Limestone. We discuss the impacts of their work on property and landowners and we have a significant number of requirements around that. And we also review their work plans, a component of which is their safety plan.
Once construction starts, at least on a weekly basis, we meet at site. We review safety, environment, you know, obviously, the schedule of work, any issues they may have. During the construction period, a contractor like Forbes is required to hold weekly safety meetings for all their staff, and we have representation at those meetings.
During the construction, we'll have inspection staff assigned to each contract or work crew, and they're going to monitor construction, ensure that safety and environmental compliance requirements are being met. We also, in most cases, have environmental inspectors on site to monitor environmental compliance.
And so I guess what I'm trying to explain here is that even though we have a contractor, we are not an absentee manager here. We are involved on a regular basis, but if it is a contract where the contractor is the prime, they are responsible, ultimately, for compliance with safety and the safety of their employees.
We will monitor. If we see issues, we have the ability to stop the work. If we see issues, we have the ability to request that they conduct a safety work plan review with us. That is different than a site like Keeyask where we are the prime contractor and we have all those accountabilities and more, but it doesn't substantially change the fact that even where we have a subcontractor, we have an active engagement on safety.
Mr. Gerrard: Yes, I mean, that would apply even though that, for example, that Limestone yard was, I believe, a Hydro yard. And let me give you an example. One of the safety requirements, I understand, for workers like Todd at such a yard, was that there would be, sort of, grip aids that fit on the bottom of boots to make sure that–I guess they call them traction aids–and that would be part of the safety requirement, as my understanding.
Would that requirement be Hydro's, to make sure that was happening because it was a Hydro loading site at Limestone, or would it be the subcontractor's?
Mr. Cullen: I appreciate your line of questioning in this regard here. I think, you know, there is an investigation under way, and we're getting right into the details of this particular incident, and just–I'm just cautious that we don't go there until the investigation is complete, because we're getting right into the details of the situation, and I don't think it's maybe prudent for us to be speculating at this table. And so I just throw out that caution.
Mr. Gerrard: Without getting into details, but, I mean, is it possible to give me a little bit more understanding of–at a Limestone staging site, you know, where the responsibilities were located?
Mr. Shepherd: In a situation like the situation at Limestone or another situation where a contractor comes on to a Hydro location, the responsibility for the employees' safety ultimately rests with the contractor in that case; they are performing the job. Now, they are required to comply with all the site safety requirements.